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'If you walk down the street and someone asks you something you're able to say no and be left alone'

New guidelines have been put in place for charity fundraising.

On-street fundraising has become increasingly popular.
On-street fundraising has become increasingly popular.
Image: Flickr/howardlake

PEOPLE SHOULD NOT be intruded upon by fundraisers collecting money for charities.

That’s one rule laid down in new guidelines published by the Charities Regulator for the 9,000 or so registered charities in Ireland.

The CEO of the Charities Regulator has also said that people should get in contact with them if they feel they’ve been unfairly pressured by fundraisers.

Among the best practices charities must adhere to is that fundraising activities “will not be unreasonably persistent or intrusive” and also must respect the wishes of someone who does not wish to donate.

It’s now also written down that charities should not intrude on a person’s privacy while fundraising.

Despite this, the guidelines make no specific reference to fundraising door-to-door or fundraising on the street.

Chief executive of the Charities Regulator John Farrelly argues that making such specific guidelines could leave some issues outside the scope of what they’re trying to prevent.

Instead, he says it’s about ensuring the correct culture of respect is fostered regardless of how the fundraising is carried out.

“It is the idea that if you walk down the street and if someone asks you something you’re able to say no and you’re left alone, it’s as simple as that,” he explains.

If someone was to have someone call to their house, an elderly person and nine o’clock at night on a dark winter evening, and that elderly person didn’t like it, that elderly person would have reasonable grounds under our guidelines to get onto the charity and say this isn’t right.

“I would expect the charity to fix that, if they don’t and it’s normal practice and we received the concern, we would look at that. And when I say look, I mean significantly examine it and receive assurances.”

Data protection

The rules have come about as part of the drive to tighten controls on the charity sector that culminated in the Charities Regulator being established last year.

Another important aspect to the new guidelines is to further formalise the obligations of charities in protecting private data.

In the first instance, only the minimum necessary personal data should be sought by charities and thereafter there are strict guidelines about how it is kept.

There is already significant legislation in this area but with third-party fundraising becoming more common the aim is to provide additional clarity.

For example, people who donate to charities via a third-party have a right to reasonably assume that any data they provide is held only by the charity and not by the third-party.

These rules are set to become even more stringent as the EU-driven General Data Protection Regulation comes into force from next year.

The rules place extra obligations on organisations in the area of data protection and represent a challenge to those inside and outside the fundraising sector.

Read: Charity boss launches legal battle into regulator’s findings around €84,000 payments to her parents >

Read: Eleven ‘charity shops’ that weren’t charities have been caught breaking the rules >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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